The Oilers have enjoyed improvement in their special teams play when it comes to both power play and penalty kill.
Their PK play is ranked 14th in the NHL, while their PK on home ice is tied for ninth at 85.7%.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says while the team has gotten better, there's still some work to be done.
"I think we have a better understanding of what we're looking for," said Eakins. "We've been way more aggressive down-ice. We've got our guys going on that again. I think that's where Dubnyk has made some big saves for us on our penalty kill, which is extremely important. Once again, even though the penalty kill has been excellent, we've struggled getting the puck out of our zone when we've had a chance.
"When the puck is on our stick and now it's going down the ice, we seem to find a way the guy can knock it down with his stick or it hits a leg or we fan on it. We've got to get those pucks down. That's where you're usually tired and now it stays in and now you're in trouble with a group of four who are tired. Even though we've had success, there's still some details that need to be worked out so we can be even more efficient with it."
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins has taken on a more scruffy look with his facial hair recently. When asked about his beard a few games back, Eakins said it would be gone the next day. However, the coach has kept the facial hair due to the team's recent success.
Not normally superstitious, Eakins says it was a request from players and coaches in the dressing room that he'd keep the beard going while the team was successful.
"We had some requests to keep it so that's my commitment to the team," said Eakins. "I'll keep this. Actually, my wife quite likes it which is interesting. Maybe she's going blind but we'll keep it, keep it rolling and have a little fun in the dressing room… For a guy who used to make fun of everyone's superstitions, I'm starting to get there myself."
The Oilers are on a three-game win streak, hoping to extend that streak tonight.
THIRD STAR – DEVAN DUBNYK, G, EDMONTON OILERS
Dubnyk backstopped the Oilers (7-15-2, 16 points) to a pair of wins, posting a 2-0-0 record with a 0.50 goals-against average, .974 save percentage and one shutout in helping the team extend its season-long winning streak to three games. He made 14 saves for his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career in a 7-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 19. Dubnyk then posted 24 stops in a 4-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers Nov. 21. The 27-year-old native of Regina, Sask., has appeared in 18 games this season, compiling a 6-10-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
SECOND STAR – MAX PACIORETTY, LW, MONTREAL CANADIENS
Pacioretty led all players with five goals, including two-game winners, in three games to help the Canadiens (13-9-2, 28 points) pick up a trio of victories. He opened the week by recording a natural hat trick, his second career three-goal game and first since Feb. 9, 2012, in a 6-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild Nov. 19. After being held off the scoresheet in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals Nov. 22, Pacioretty twice found the back of the net, including the game-winning goal, in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Nov. 23. The New Canaan, Conn., native has totaled 7-2—9 in 15 games this season, tying for second on the Canadiens in goals and game-winners (2).
FIRST STAR – EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Malkin led all skaters with seven assists and eight points as the Penguins (15-9-0, 30 points) won three of four games to re-claim first place in the Metropolitan Division. He posted a pair of assists in each of his first two games of the week: a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Nov. 18 and a 4-0 triumph over the Washington Capitals Nov. 20. Malkin then snapped a 15-game goal drought, recording 1-1—2 in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders Nov. 22. He closed the week by collecting two assists, his fourth consecutive multi-point game, in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 23. The 27-year-old native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, has recorded at least one point in 10 of his past 11 games (1-15—16) and is tied for first in the NHL with 22 assists while also placing seventh in the League with 26 points in 24 contests.
When the Saskatchewan Roughriders host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the 101st CFL Grey Cup today at 4 p.m., there will be at least one Edmonton Oiler watching with a vested interest in the outcome.
Regina, SASK native Jordan Eberle is a big Roughriders fan and is excited to root for the home team in the championship game.
"I'm pretty excited," said Eberle. "The 'Riders are playing in their home city. It's going to be good. I've gotten a lot of pictures and tweets from buddies that are back home right now. There's a pretty good mood around the city… I don't think anyone is working. It's going to be good."
As the game will be played in Regina, things could get ugly for Eberle's hometown should the 'Riders lose to Hamilton.
"There might be a riot I think. But I think they've got a pretty good chance. They played pretty well in the Conference Finals, so I am looking forward to it."
Edmonton veteran forward Ryan Smyth takes a different approach to today's game and who he wants to see hoist the Grey Cup.
"Neither of them," said Smyth. "But my wife is from Moose Jaw, so she's from Saskatchewan, so I'll probably go with them. I think they're going to dominate."
Smyth is an Edmonton Eskimos fan.
Big, physical forward Jesse Joensuu has been relegated to fourth-line duties since returning from his back injury. It is a challenge for the 26 year-old Finnish born player to play a more limited amount of minutes on limited shifts.
"I feel good," said Joensuu. "We're playing, sometimes, small minutes so it's tough to get into the game but at the same time, you get paid to do this and everybody wants to play in the NHL. You need to work on being ready whenever you're called on to go to the ice."
The forward says it can be more difficult to find a groove when his time on the ice is limited.
"Every hockey player will tell you when they play more, it's easier to play and they play better. There's a lot of guys who are ahead of me in the lineup and I obviously knew that. That's no shock to me and they're playing good. Our line, we have to bring energy and play as good as we can with those minutes and that's obviously the only way you can play more in the future."
Joensuu has not recorded a point since opening night against Winnipeg on October 1. He has also seen less than eight minutes of ice time in four of his last five games, excluding over 12 minutes against Columbus on November 19.
Against Columbus, Joensuu had a decent game, chipping in a team-high five hits while adding a blocked shot as well in 12:14 on the ice.
He understands that comes with the territory of skating on the fourth line and knows that if he wants more ice time, he'll have to earn it.
"This is the only thing I have to work on in my life. This is my work and the only thing I have to focus on. If I have done a poor job, I just have to find a way to do it better. I can't really complain."
Today's lineup is the same as it was yesterday.
Oilers on the ice at Millennium Place, lines same as yesterday.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) November 24, 2013
Arcobello and Jones are not on a designated line, in black.
Belov- J. Schultz
Philip Larsen (injured) remains absent.
Watching practice today, there was clearly a different feel to the mood and pace on the ice. The players were smiling, laughing and having a good time. They even made Nail Yakupov do a lap while being shot at with pucks due to his tardiness to the team huddle, all in good fun.
The team is in a much better place after three wins than it was even a week ago.
"It's nice," said Justin Schultz. "Coming to the rink after winning games is something that we haven't had a lot of this year. It makes it more fun for us to come here and hang out for with the guys and it's a fun atmosphere."
Although there is happiness due to recent success, there must also be caution.
"It's nice to feel that way," said David Perron. All that we've got to remember is that it can go the other way in a hurry, mostly with the spot that we're in right now in terms of the standings. We've got to make sure that we're coming to the rink with a positive attitude obviously, and that's the thing (we talked about). Not getting too down on our losses.
"I felt like I was taking some of the losses really to heart and it was tough coming in the next day. It's like wins, you have to forget and turn the page the same as losses. It's nice to have that feeling going right now in practice. You can tell even in workouts off the ice, with the loud music in the gym and stuff like that, that it's a lot of fun. But we've just got to remember, we've got to keep doing the little things right and that's why we've had success."
With the Oilers winning three-straight games, they are now on the second day of a three-day stretch where they will not play a game. With a big litmus test, the Chicago Blackhawks, looming on Monday, the question is whether or not the team would have rather just kept playing and carrying momentum versus getting some rest.
"You can look at it both ways," said David Perron. "That's the way the schedule is and we'll just go with it. There's nothing we can do early on when we played a lot of road games and stuff like that. It's probably something we'd wish we'd had more home games. That just means that now we'll have more. It's something, we've just got to roll with the schedule and whatever happens, happens. We've got to pour on the best effort we can every single night and get wins."
While it would have been nice to just keep playing, the rest and extra practice time is welcomed.
"A little bit of both," said Justin Schultz. "You want to keep playing when you're playing well. It's tough, but at the same time, it's good for us to get some rest and get some practice in and we'll be prepared for Chicago."